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Full text of "The beginning & the end, and other poems"

UNIVERSITY 
OF FLORIDA 
LIBRARIES 




COLLEGE LIBRARY 



The Beginning and The End 



AND OTHER POEMS 



"Robinson Jeffers 



The TSepinni 




& THE END 



AND OTHER POEMS 




Random House 

New York 






SECOND PRINTING 

Copyright, 1954, © 1963, by Garth Jeffers and Donnan Jefters 

© Copyright, 1963, hy Steuben Glass 

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright 
Conventions. Published in New York by Random House, Inc., and 
simultaneously in Toronto, Canada, by Random House of Canada, 
Limited. 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 63-9347 



MANUFACTURED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 

Design by Tere LoPrete 

The publisher wishes to thank Steuben Glass for providing the text 
of "Birds and Fishes," from their Poetry in Crystal exhibit. 



; 



Contents 



series i. The Root of All Things 



.7 



The Great Explosion 


3 


The Beginning and the End 


5 


The Great Wound 


ii 


Passenger Pigeons 


13 


Ode to Hengist and Horsa 


17 


Star-Swirls 


18 


Unnatural Powers 


i9 


End of the World 


20 


series ii. Do You Still Make War? 


21 


Do You Still Make War? 


23 


The Epic Stars 


24 


Monument 


25 


Prophets 


26 


To Kill in War Is Not Murder 


28 


How Beautiful It Is 


29 


Birth and Death 


30 


The Beautiful Captive 


31 



series in. Memoranda 


33 


Let Them Alone 


35 


To the Story-Tellers 


36 


Eager to be Praised 


37 


On an Anthology of Chinese Poems 


38 


Tear Life to Pieces 


39 


Believe History 


40 


Full Moon 


4i 


The Dog in the Sky 


42 


The Monstrous Drought 


43 


Oysters 


44 


Savagely Individual 


46 


The Silent Shepherds 


47 


Storm Dance of the Sea Gulls 


49 


My Loved Subject 


5° 


He Is All 


5i 


Look, How Beautiful 


52 


series iv. Autobiographical 


53 


Patronymic 


55 


Fierce Music 


57 


Harder than Granite 


58 


Cremation 


59 


Granddaughter 


60 


Nightpiece 


61 


Vulture 


62 


Salvage 


63 



But I Am Growing Old and Indolent 


64 


Hand 


65 


See the Human Figure 


66 


My Burial Place 


67 


Ghost 


68 



appendix: Three Uncollected Poems 6 9 

Animula 71 

The Shears 72 

Birds and Fishes 73 



The "Root of 

zAll Things 



I. THE GREAT EXPLOSION 
II. THE BEGINNING AND THE END 

III. THE GREAT WOUND 

IV. PASSENGER PIGEONS 
V. ODE TO HENGIST AND HORSA 

VI. STAR-SWIRLS 
VII. UNNATURAL POWERS 
VIII. END OF THE WORLD 



The Great Explosion 

The universe expands and contracts like a great heart. 

It is expanding, the farthest nebulae 

Rush with the speed of light into empty space. 

It will contract, the immense navies of stars and galaxies, 
dust-clouds and nebulae 

Are recalled home, they crush against each other in one 
harbor, they stick in one lump 

And then explode it, nothing can hold them down; there 
is no way to express that explosion; all that exists 

Roars into flame, the tortured fragments rush away from 
each other into all the sky, new universes 

Jewel the black breast of night; and far off the outer neb- 
ulae like charging spearmen again 

Invade emptiness. 

No wonder we are so fascinated with 
fire-works 

And our huge bombs: it is a kind of homesickness per- 
haps for the howling fire-blast that we were born 
from. 

But the whole sum of the energies 

That made and contained the giant atom survives. It will 

gather again and pile up, the power and the glory — 
And no doubt it will burst again: diastole and systole: 

the whole universe beats like a heart. 
Peace in our time was never one of God's promises; but 

back and forth, die and live, burn and be damned, 
The great heart beating, pumping into our arteries His 

terrible life. 



He is beautiful beyond belief. 
And we, God's apes — or tragic children — share in the 

beauty. We see it above our torment, that's what 

life's for. 
He is no God of love, no justice of a little city like 

Dante's Florence, no anthropoid God 
Making commandments: this is the God who does not 

care and will never cease. Look at the seas there 
Flashing against this rock in the darkness — look at the 

tide-stream stars — and the fall of nations — and 

dawn 
Wandering with wet white feet down the Carmel Valley 

to meet the sea. These are real and we see their 

beauty. 
The great explosion is probably only a metaphor — I know 

not — of faceless violence, the root of all things. 



4 



II 



The Beginning and the End 

The unformed volcanic earth, a female thing, 

Furiously following with the other planets 

Their lord the sun: her body is molten metal pressed 

rigid 
By its own mass; her beautiful skin, basalt and granite 

and the lighter elements, 
Swam to the top. She was like a mare in her heat eyeing 

the stallion, 
Screaming for life in the womb; her atmosphere 
Was the breath of her passion: not the blithe air 
Men breathe and live, but marsh-gas, ammonia, sul- 
phured hydrogen, 
Such poison as our remembering bodies return to 
When they die and decay and the end of life 
Meets its beginning. The sun heard her and stirred 
Her thick air with fierce lightnings and flagellations 
Of germinal power, building impossible molecules, 

amino-acids 
And flashy unstable proteins : thence life was born, 
Its nitrogen from ammonia, carbon from methane, 
Water from the cloud and salts from the young seas, 
It dribbled down into the primal ocean like a babe's 

urine 
Soaking the cloth: heavily built protein molecules 
Chemically growing, bursting apart as the tensions 
In the inordinate molecule become unbearable — 
That is to say, growing and reproducing themselves, a 

virus 
On the warm ocean. 



Time and the world changed, 
The proteins were no longer created, the ammoniac at- 
mosphere 
And the great storms no more. This virus now 
Must labor to maintain itself. It clung together 
Into bundles of life, which we call cells, 
With microscopic walls enclosing themselves 
Against the world. But why would life maintain itself, 
Being nothing but a dirty scum on the sea 
Dropped from foul air? Could it perhaps perceive 
Glories to come? Could it foresee that cellular life 
Would make the mountain forest and the eagle dawning, 
Monstrously beautiful, wings, eyes and claws, dawning 
Over the rock-ridge? And the passionate human intelli- 
gence 
Straining its limits, striving to understand itself and the 

universe to the last galaxy — 
Flammantia moenia mundi, Lucretius wrote, 
Alliterating like a Saxon — all those Ms mean majesty — 
The flaming world-walls, far-flung fortifications of being 
Against not-being. 

For after a time the cells of life 
Bound themselves into clans, a multitude of cells 
To make one being — as the molecules before 
Had made of many one cell. Meanwhile they had in- 
vented 
Chlorophyll and ate sunlight, cradled in peace 
On the warm waves; but certain assassins among them 
Discovered that it was easier to eat flesh 
Than feed on lean air and sunlight: thence the animals, 



Greedy mouths and guts, life robbing life, 

Grew from the plants; and as the ocean ebbed and 

flowed many plants and animals 
Were stranded in the great marshes along the shore, 
Where many died and some lived. From these grew all 

land-life, 
Plants, beasts and men; the mountain forest and the 

mind of Aeschylus 
And the mouse in the wall. 



What is this thing called life? — But I believe 

That the earth and stars too, and the whole glittering 

universe, and rocks on the mountain have life, 
Only we do not call it so — I speak of the life 
That oxydizes fats and proteins and carbo- 
Hydrates to live on, and from that chemical energy 
Makes pleasure and pain, wonder, love, adoration, hatred 

and terror : how do these thing grow 
From a chemical reaction? 

I think they were here al- 
ready. I think the rocks 
And the earth and the other planets, and the stars and 

galaxies 
Have their various consciousness, all things are conscious; 
But the nerves of an animal, the nerves and brain 
Bring it to focus; the nerves and brain are like a burning- 
glass 
To concentrate the heat and make it catch fire: 
It seems to us martyrs hotter than the blazing hearth 



From which it came. So we scream and laugh, clamorous 
animals 

Born howling to die groaning: the old stones in the door- 
yard 

Prefer silence: but those and all things have their own 
awareness, 

As the cells of a man have; they feel and feed and in- 
fluence each other, each unto all, 

Like the cells of a man's body making one being, 

They make one being, one consciousness, one life, one 
God. 

But whence came the race of man? I will make a guess. 
A change of climate killed the great northern forests, 
Forcing the manlike apes down from their trees, 
They starved up there. They had been secure up there, 
But famine is no security: among the withered branches 

blue famine : 
They had to go down to the earth, where green still grew 
And small meats might be gleaned. But there the great 

flesh-eaters, 
Tiger and panther and the horrible fumbling bear and 

endless wolf-packs made life 
A dream of death. Therefore man has these dreams, 
And kills out of pure terror. Therefore man walks erect, 
Forever alerted: as the bear rises to fight 
So man does always. Therefore he invented fire and flint 

weapons 
In his desperate need. Therefore he is cruel and bloody- 
handed and quick-witted, having survived 
Against all odds. Never blame the man: his hard-pressed 



8 



Ancestors formed him: the other anthropoid apes were 
safe 

In the great southern rain-forest and hardly changed 

In a million years: but the race of man was made 

By shock and agony. Therefore they invented the song 
called language 

To celebrate their survival and record their deeds. And 
therefore the deeds they celebrate — 

Achilles raging in the flame of the south, Baltic Beowulf 
like a fog-blinded sea-bear 

Prowling the blasted fenland in the bleak twilight to the 
black water — 

Are cruel and bloody. Epic, drama and history, 

Jesus and Judas, Jenghiz, Julius Caesar, no great poem 

Without the blood-splash. They are a little lower than 
the angels, as someone said. — Blood-snuffing rats: 

But never blame them: a wound was made in the brain 

When life became too hard, and has never healed. 

It is there that they learned trembling religion and blood- 
sacrifice, 

It is there that they learned to butcher beasts and to 
slaughter men, 

And hate the world: the great religions of love and kind- 
ness 

May conceal that, not change it. They are not primary 
but reactions 

Against the hate: as the eye after feeding on a red sunfall 

Will see green suns. 

The human race is one of God's 
sense-organs, 

Immoderately alerted to feel good and evil 



And pain and pleasure. It is a nerve-ending, 

Like eye, ear, taste-buds (hardly able to endure 

The nauseous draught) it is a sensory organ of God's. 

As Titan-mooded Lear or Prometheus reveal to their 

audience 
Extremes of pain and passion they will never find 
In their own lives but through the poems as sense-organs 
They feel and know them: so the exultations and agonies 

of beasts and men 
Are sense-organs of God: and on other globes 
Throughout the universe much greater nerve-endings 
Enrich the consciousness of the one being 
Who is all that exists. This is man's mission: 
To find and feel; all animal experience 
Is a part of God's life. He would be balanced and neutral 
As a rock on the shore, but the red sunset-waves 
Of life's passions fling over him. He endures them, 
We endure ours. That ancient wound in the brain 
Has never healed, it hangs wide, it lets in the stars 
Into the animal-stinking ghost-ridden darkness, the hu- 
man soul. 
The mind of man. . . . 
Slowly, perhaps, man may grow into it — 
Do you think so? This villainous king of beasts, this de- 
formed ape? -+-He has mind 
And imagination, he might go far 
And end in honor. The hawks are more heroic but man 

has a steeper mind, 
Huge pits of darkness, high peaks of light, 
You may calculate a comet's orbit or the dive of a hawk, 
not a man's mind. 



10 



Ill 



The Great Wound 

At the near approach of a star — huge tides 

Agitated the molten surface of the earth. 

The tides grew higher as it passed. It tore from the earth 

The top of one great wave : the moon was torn 

Out of the Pacific basin: the cold white stone that lights 

us at night 
Left that great wound in the earth, the Pacific Ocean 
With all its islands and navies. I can stand on the cliff 

here 
And hear the half-molten basalt and granite tearing apart 

and see that huge bird 
Leaping up to her star. But the star passed, 
The moon remained, circling her ancient home, 
Dragging the sea-tides after her, haggard with loneliness. 

The mathematicians and physics men 

Have their mythology; they work alongside the truth, 

Never touching it; their equations are false 

But the things work. Or, when gross error appears, 

They invent new ones; they drop the theory of waves 

In universal ether and imagine curved space. 

Nevertheless their equations bombed Hiroshima. 

The terrible things worked. 

The poet also 
Has his mythology. He tells you the moon arose 
Out of the Pacific basin. He tells you that Troy was 

burnt for a vagrant 
Beautiful woman, whose face launched a thousand ships. 
It is unlikely: it might be true: but church and state 



ll 



Depend on more peculiarly impossible myths: 
That all men are born free and equal : consider that! 
And that a wandering Hebrew poet named Jesus 
Is the God of the universe. Consider that! 



12 



IV 



Passenger Pigeons 

Slowly the passenger pigeons increased, then suddenly 

their numbers 
Became enormous, they would flatten ten miles of forest 
When they flew down to roost, and the cloud of their 

rising 
Eclipsed the dawns. They became too many, they are all 

dead, 
Not one remains. 

And the American bison : their hordes 
Would hide a prairie from horizon to horizon, great 

heads and storm-cloud shoulders, a torrent of life — 
How many are left? For a time, for a few years, their 

bones 
Turned the dark prairies white. 

You, Death, you watch 

for these things, 
These explosions of life: they are your food, 
They make your feasts. 

But turn your great rolling eyes 

away from humanity, 
Those grossly craving black eyes. It is true we increase. 
A man from Britain landing in Gaul when Rome had 

fallen, 
He journeyed fourteen days inland through that beauti- 
ful 
Rich land, the orchards and rivers and the looted villas: 

he reports that he saw 
No living man. But now we fill up the gaps, 



*3 



In spite of wars, famines and pestilences we are quite 

suddenly 
Three billion people: our bones, ours too, would make 
Wide prairies white, a beautiful snow of unburied bones: 
Bones that have twitched and quivered in the nights of 

love, 
Bones that have been shaken with laughter and hung 

slack in sorrow, coward bones 
Worn out with trembling, strong bones broken on the 

rack, bones broken in battle, 
Broad bones gnarled with hard labor, and the little bones 

of sweet young children, and the white empty 

skulls, 
Little carved ivory wine-jugs that used to contain 
Passion and thought and love and insane delirium, where 

now 
Not even worms live. 

Respect humanity, Death, these 

shameless black eyes of yours, 
It is not necessary to take all at once — besides that, you 

cannot do it, we are too powerful, 
We are men, not pigeons; you may take the old, the use- 
less and helpless, the cancer-bitten and the tender 

young, 
But the human race has still history to make. For look — 

look now 
At our achievements: we have bridled the cloud-leaper 

lightning, a lion whipped by a man, to carry our 

messages 
And work our will, we have snatched the live thunder- 
bolt 



H 



Out of God's hands. Ha? That was little and last year — 

for now we have taken 
The primal powers, creation and annihilation; we make 

new elements, such as God never saw, 
We can explode atoms and annul the fragments, nothing 

left but pure energy, we shall use it 
In peace and war — "Very clever/' he answered, in his 

thin piping voice, 
Cruel and a eunuch. 

Roll those idiot black eyes of yours 
On the field-beasts, not on intelligent man, 
We are not in your order. You watched the dinosaurs 
Grow into horror: they had been little efts in the ditches 

and presently became enormous, with leaping flanks 
And tearing teeth, plated with armor, nothing could 

stand against them, nothing but you, 
Death, and they died. You watched the sabre-tooth tigers 
Develop those huge fangs, unnecessary as our sciences, 

and presently they died. You have their bones 
In the oil-pits and layer-rock, you will not have ours. 

With pain and wonder and labor we have bought 

intelligence. 
We have minds like the tusks of those forgotten tigers, 

hypertrophied and terrible, 
We have counted the stars and half understood them, we 

have watched the farther galaxies fleeing away 

from us, wild herds 
Of panic horses — or a trick of distance deceived the 

prism — we outfly falcons and eagles and meteors, 
Faster than sound, higher than the nourishing air; we 

have enormous privilege, we do not fear you, 



*5 



We have invented the jet-plane and the death-bomb and 
the cross of Christ — "Oh," he said, "surely 

You'll live forever" — grinning like a skull, covering his 
mouth with his hand — "What could exterminate 
you?" 






16 



V 



Ode to Hengist and Horsa 

Recently in the south of England 

A Saxon warrior was found in the rich earth there, old 

hero bones 
Of a man seven feet tall, buried with honor 
Under his shield, his spear beside him, and at his hand 
The Saxon knife: but every bone of his body was broken 
Lest he come forth and walk. It was their custom. 
They did not fear the living but they feared the dead, 
The stopped-off battle-fury, the stinking flesh. 
They honored and perhaps had loved him, but they broke 

his bones 
Lest he come back. 

For life, the natural animal thinks, 

life is the treasure. 
No wonder the dead envy it, gnashing their jaws 
In the black earth. He was our loyal captain and friend, 
But now he is changed, he belongs to another nation, 
The grim tribes underground. We break their bones 
To hold them down. We must not be destroyed 
By the dead or the living. We have all history ahead of 

us. 



n 



VI 



Star-Swirls 

The polar ice-caps are melting, the mountain glaciers 
Drip into rivers; all feed the ocean; 
Tides ebb and flow, but every year a little bit higher. 
They will drown New York, they will drown London. 
And this place, where I have planted trees and built a 

stone house, 
Will be under sea. The poor trees will perish, 
And little fish will flicker in and out the windows. I built 

it well, 
Thick walls and Portland cement and gray granite, 
The tower at least will hold against the sea's buffeting; 

it will become 
Geological, fossil and permanent. 

What a pleasure it is to mix one's mind with geological 
Time, or with astronomical relax it. 
There is nothing like astronomy to pull the stuff out of 

man. 
His stupid dreams and red-rooster importance: let him 

count the star-swirls. 



18 



Vll 



Unnatural Powers 

For fifty thousand years man has been dreaming of 

powers 
Unnatural to him: to fly like the eagles — this groundling! 

— to breathe under the seas, to voyage to the moon, 
To launch like the sky-god intolerable thunder-bolts: 

now he has got them. 
How little he looks, how desperately scared and excited, 

like a poisonous insect, and no God pities him. 



19 



Vlll 



End of the World 

When I was young in school in Switzerland, about the 

time of the Boer War, 
We used to take it for known that the human race 
Would last the earth out, not dying till the planet died. 

I wrote a schoolboy poem 
About the last man walking in stoic dignity along the 

dead shore 
Of the last sea, alone, alone, alone, remembering all 
His racial past. But now I don't think so. They'll die 

faceless in flocks, 
And the earth flourish long after mankind is out. 






20 



Do You Still Make War? 



I. DO YOU STILL MAKE WAR? 

II. THE EPIC STARS 

III. MONUMENT 

IV. PROPHETS 

V. TO KILL IN WAR IS NOT MURDER 

VI. HOW BEAUTIFUL IT IS 

VII. BIRTH AND DEATH 

VIII. THE BEAUTIFUL CAPTIVE 



Do You Still Make War? 

I saw a regiment of soldiers shuffling and stumbling, 

Holding each other's hands for guidance, 

Falling into the ditches, falling on the plain road, 

Under orders to garrison the empty city. 

The furious light of what killed the city had killed their 

eyes 
At three hundred miles' distance. Oh faithful ones 
Do you still make war? 



23 



ii 



The Epic Stars 



The heroic stars spending themselves, 

Coining their very flesh into bullets for the lost battle, 

They must burn out at length like used candles; 

And Mother Night will weep in her triumph, taking 

home her heroes. 
There is the stuff for an epic poem, 
This magnificent raid at the heart of darkness, this lost 

battle — 
We don't know enough, we'll never know. 
Oh happy Homer, taking the stars and the gods for 

granted. 



L 



24 






Ill 



Monument 

Erase the lines : I pray you not to love classifications : 
The thing is like a river, from source to sea-mouth 
One flowing life. We that have the honor and hardship 

of being human 
Are one flesh with the beasts, and the beasts with the 

plants 
One streaming sap, and certainly the plants and algae 

and the earth they spring from 
Are one flesh with the stars. The classifications 
Are mostly a kind of memoria technica, use it but don't 

be fooled. 
It is all truly one life, red blood and tree-sap, 
Animal, mineral, sidereal, one stream, one organism, one 

God. 
There is nothing to be despised nor hated nor feared. 
When the third world-war comes, do it well. Kill. Kill 

your brothers. Why not? 
God's on both sides. Make a monument of it: 
There were never so many people so suddenly killed. We 

can spare millions, millions, 
The chiefs in the Kremlin think, and I too/ Man's life's 
Too common to be lamented; and if they died after a while 

in their beds 
It would be nearly as painful — death's never pleasant. 
May the terror be brief — but for a people to be defeated 

is worse. 



*5 



IV 



Prophets 

The dynamite craters at Fort Ord where they train sol- 
diers; and the howling jet-planes 

Tearing the sky over this quiet countryside, shaking the 
mountain 

When one of them over-passes the speed of sound; 

The roaring factories these monsters come from; the 
snoring voice of huge Asia 

Waking from sleep; the hidden and deadly struggles for 
power in unholy Russia; 

The metal seeds of unearthly violence stored in neat 
rows on shelves, waiting the day: 

Our prophets forecast an unquiet future. 

Do it again. Dumfound the prophets again, prove our 
knowledge false. We know that as civilization 

Advances, so wars increase. We know that this century 

Is devoted to world-wars; we know that an armaments- 
race makes war. To heap up weapons — what weap- 
ons! — 

On both sides of a fence makes war certain as sunrise — 

Do it again my dear, April-fool us again, prove the 
prophets false! 

Alas that you cannot do it. 

You can dance on men's minds, but the deep instincts, 

Fear, envy, loyalty, pride of kind and the killer's passion, 
are past your power. They are terribly in earnest, 

And the other mere speculation. No wonder they are 
earnest: for ages 

Beyond reckoning those who retain them have killed or 



26 



enslaved those who renounce them. It's a bitter say- 
ing that war 
Will be won by the worst, what else can I say? — Laugh 
at that, Puck. 



n 






V 



To Kill in War Is Not Murder 

To kill in war is not murder, but this is not war. 

Shooting missiles to the moon — childish romance put 
into action — calculating the bomb-size \ 

That will completely obliterate New York and Moscow 
and the polar ice-cap: they have a new breed of men 

Working at this. Obedient, intelligent, trained techni- 
cians like trained seals, tell them to do something 

And they can do it. But never ask them their reasons, 

For they know nothing. They would break up into neo- 
Christian jargon like Einstein. 

As for me, I am growing old and have never 
Been quite so vulgar. I look around at the present world 

and think of my little grandchildren 
To live in it. What? Should I cut their throats? 
The beauty of men is dead, or defaced and sarcophagussed 
Under vile caricatures; the enormous inhuman 
Beauty of things goes on, the beauty of God. the eternal 

beauty, and perhaps they'll see it. 



28 



VI 



How Beautiful It Is 

It flows out of mystery into mystery: there is no begin- 
ning- 
How could there be? And no end — how could there be? 
The stars shine in the sky like the spray of a wave 
Rushing to meet no shore, and the great music 
Blares on forever, but to us very soon 
It will be blind. Not we nor our children nor the human 

race 
Are destined to live forever, the breath will fail, 
The eyes will break — perhaps of our own explosive bile 
Vented upon each other — or a stingy peace 
Makes parents fools — but far greater witnesses 
Will take our places. It is only a little planet 
But how beautiful it is. 



29 



Vll 



Birth and Death 

I am old and in the ordinary course of nature shall die 
soon, but the human race is not old 

But rather childish, it is an infant and acts like one. 

And now it has captured the keys of the kingdoms of un- 
earthly violence. Will it use them? It loves destruc- 
tion you know. 

And the earth is too small to feed us, we must have room. 

It seems expedient that not as of old one man, but many 
nations and races die for the people. 

Have you noticed meanwhile the population explosion 

Of man on earth, the torrents of new-born babies, the 
bursting schools? Astonishing. It saps man's dignity. 

We used to be individuals, not populations. 

Perhaps we are now preparing for the great slaughter. 
No reason to be alarmed; stone-dead is dead; 

Breeding like rabbits we hasten to meet the day. 



30 



Vlll 



The Beautiful Captive 

It is curious I cannot feel it yet. 

To pile up weapons on both sides of a ditch makes war 
certain as sunrise 

Yet I can't feel its approach. 

There have been two, there will be a third, to be fought 
with what weapons? These that we test and stock- 
pile. 

And every test makes the earth 

At such and such a place uninhabitable. We must not 
test them too much, they are too deadly, 

We store them. If ours and theirs 

Went off at once they'd probably infect the elements and 
blight the whole earth. We have general death on 
our hands, 

But wait ten years of peace we'll have more. 

Do you think we'll not use them? When a great nation 
in trouble — when a great nation is in danger of be- 
ing conquered 

It will use the whole arsenal. 

So — be prepared to die. Those whom the blasts miss, the 
air and water will poison them. Those who survive, 

Their children will be dying monsters. 

I have thought for a long time that we are too many — 
three thousand million is it? — this will adjust us. 

I have pitied the beautiful earth 

Ridden by such a master as the human race. Now, if we 
die like the dinosaurs, the beautiful 

Planet will be the happier. 

She is not domesticated, she weeps in her service, the 



31 



lovely forehead bowed down to the sleek knees — 
Or is she laughing? Good luck to her. 
But this fantastic third world-war and self-destruction: 

curious I cannot feel them yet. The idea is logical 
But not intuitive: distrust it. 
However — if not thus — God will find other means. The 

troublesome race of man, Oh beautiful planet, is 

not immortal. 



V 






Memoranda 



I. LET THEM ALONE 

II. TO THE STORY-TELLERS 

III. EAGER TO BE PRAISED 

IV. ON AN ANTHOLOGY OF CHINESE POEMS 

V. TEAR LIFE TO PIECES 

VI. BELIEVE HISTORY 

VII. FULL MOON 

VIII. THE DOG IN THE SKY 

IX. THE MONSTROUS DROUGHT 

X. OYSTERS 

XI. SAVAGELY INDIVIDUAL 

XII. THE SILENT SHEPHERDS 

XIII. STORM DANCE OF THE SEA GULLS 

XIV. MY LOVED SUBJECT 

XV. HE IS ALL 

XVI. LOOK, HOW BEAUTIFUL 



Let Them Alone 

If God has been good enough to give you a poet 

Then listen to him. But for God's sake let him alone un- 
til he is dead; no prizes, no ceremony, 

They kill the man. A poet is one who listens 

To nature and his own heart; and if the noise of the 
world grows up around him, and if he is tough 
enough, 

He can shake off his enemies but not his friends. 

That is what withered Wordsworth and muffled Tenny- 
son, and would have killed Keats; that is what makes 

Hemingway play the fool and Faulkner forget his art. 



35 



It 



To the Story -Tellers 

Man, the illogical animal. The others go wrong by anach- 
ronistic 

Instinct, for the world changes, or mistaken 

Observation, but man, his loose moods disjoin; madness 
is under the skin 

To the deep bone. He will be covetous 

Beyond use or cause, and then suddenly spendthrift flings 
all possessions 

To all the spoilers. He will suffer in patience 

Until his enemy has him by the throat helpless, and go 
mad with rage 

When it least serves. Or he'll murder his love 

And feast his foe. Oh — an amazing animal, by education 

And instinct: he often destroys himself 

For no reason at all, and desperately crawls for life when 
it stinks. 

And only man will deny known truth. 

You story-tellers, novelist, poet and playwright, have a 
free field, 

There are no fences, man will do anything. 



36 



Ill 



Eager to Be Praised 

Goethe, they say, was a great poet, Pindar, perhaps, was 

a great poet, Shakespeare and Sophocles 
Stand beyond question. I am thinking of the few, the 

fortunate, 
Who died fulfilled. 

I think of Christopher Marlowe, 

stabbed through the eye in a tavern brawl by a 

bawdy serving-man, 
Spilling his youth and brains on the greasy planks. I 

think of young Keats, 
Wild with his work unfinished, sobbing for air, dying in 

Rome. I think of Edgar Poe 
And Robert Burns. I think of Lucretius leaving his poem 

unfinished to go and kill himself. I think of Archi- 

lochus 
Grinning with crazy bitterness. I think of Virgil 
In despair of his life-work, begging his friends to destroy 

it, coughing his lungs out. 

Yet the young men 
Still come to me with their books and manuscripts, 
Eager to be poets, eager to be praised, eager as Keats. 

They are mad I think. 



31 



IV 



On an Anthology of Chinese Poems 

Beautiful the hanging cliff and the wind-thrown cedars, 

but they have no weight. 
Beautiful the fantastically 
Small farmhouse and ribbon of rice-fields a mile below; 

and billows of mist 
Blow through the gorge. These men were better 
Artists than any of ours, and far better observers. They 

loved landscape 
And put man in his place. But why 
Do their rocks have no weight? They loved rice-wine and 

peace and friendship, 
Above all they loved landscape and solitude, 
— Like Wordsworth. But Wordsworth's mountains have 

weight and mass, dull though the song be. 
It is a moral difference perhaps? 



38 



V 



Tear Life to Pieces 

Eagle and hawk with their great claws and hooked heads 
Tear life to pieces; vulture and raven wait for death to 

soften it. 
The poet cannot feed on this time of the world 
Until he has torn it to pieces, and himself also. 



39 



VI 



Believe History 

I think we are the ape's children, but believe history 

We are the Devil's: the fire-deaths, the flaying alive, 

The blinding with hot iron, the crucifixions, the castra- 
tions, the famous 

Murder of a King of England by hot iron forced 

Through the anus to burn the bowels, and men outside 
the ten-foot dungeon-wall 

Could hear him howling. Through such violence, such 
horrors 

We have come and survived time. 

"It came from the Devil and will go to the Devil," 

The old Norman said. 

But those were the violences 

Of youth. We are not returned to that point. 

These are the grim and weeping horrors of old age. 



40 



Vll 



Full Moon 

Our eyes by day are good enough : only the birds 

Have better sight: but in the dark nights 

Foxes may flit around us and we never see them, or a 

lion. 
We'd stumble into his jaws. Therefore 
Man sleeps at night, huddled behind the stones and the 

fire-coals, 
Helpless afraid. Then comes the full moon, 
That great red-golden disk rises in the evening to glow 
All night long, it is night but we see; 
The girls and boys escape from their fathers' tyranny to 

meet in the woods. 
The flying witches whistle in the wind 
And wild dogs howl. You would be amazed what the 

moon does to us. 
Our women come in heat once a month 
Following the moon, remembering their outlaw joys in 

the forest; 
Our maniacs lift up their heads and howl 
And beat their cell-doors, they cannot sleep at full moon, 

they are moon-struck. 
Nor can the astronomer see his moon-dazzled 
Constellations: let him give one night in the month to 

earth and the moon, 
Women and games. Also the ocean-tides 
Rise wild and higher, the fierce black water like a tame 

tiger follows her feet 
Bearing her beautiful brand on his face. 



4' 



Vlll 



The Dog in the Sky 

Signs have appeared in heaven, that dog is one. The 

second 
General war was the end of a period, 
The last monstrous convulsion. Now a new age begins. 
We'll be wishing ourselves back in the stone age 
Or in that comfortable time when Rome fell and the 

dark ages 
Danced on its grave. There'll be no more dancing, 
But if you are strong enough you can live and die. It is a 

little hard 
That the world should change in my old age — never 

mind — we'll meet it. 









4* 



The Monstrous Drought 

Little green tree-frogs — they are less thar 

my thumb — 
Pervade the place with their croaking pr 
What they say is, "Rain, rain : Here it is, 
Come and make love." Little fools: this 
Is the monstrous drought: it has not r 

winter and now's 
Christmas again. 




IX 


1 half the size of 

ophecies. 
just at hand, 

ained since last 



45 



Oysters 

On the wide Texan and New Mexican ranches 

They call them prairie oysters, but here on the Pacific 

coast-range, 
Mountain oysters. The spring round-up was finished, 
The calves had been cut and branded and their ears 

notched, 
And staggered with their pain up the mountain. A vast 
rose and gold sunset, very beautiful, made in April, 
Moved overhead. The men had gone down to the ranch- 
house, 
But three old men remained by the dying branding-fire 
At the corral gate, Lew Clark and Gilchrist 
And Onofrio the Indian; they searched the trampled 
Earth by the fire, gathering the testicles of gelded bull- 
calves 
Out of the bloody dust; they peeled and toasted them 
Over the dying branding-fire and chewed them down, 
Grinning at each other, believing that the masculine 

glands 
Would renew youth. 

The unhappy calves bawled in 
their pain and their mothers answered them. 
The vast sunset, all colored, all earnest, all golden with- 
drew a little higher but made a fierce heart 
Against the sea-line, spouting a sudden red glare like the 

eye of God. The old men 
Chewed at their meat. I do not believe the testicles of 

bull-calves 
Will make an old man young again, but if they could — 



44 



i 

/ 

What fools those old men are. Age brings hard burdens, 

But at worst cools hot blood and sets men free 

From the sexual compulsions that madden youth. 

Why would they dip their aging bodies again 

Into that fire? For old men death's the fire, 

Let them dream beautiful death, not women's loins. 



45 



XI 



Savagely Individual 

Heavy and yellow with the clay wrack from the flooded 

valley 
The river forces itself into the sea 
Not mixing in it, a long crude-ochre serpent outlined 

with foam 
Splitting the blue-black ocean. Thus a man through the 

mass of men 
Forces his way, savagely individual, 
It is only saints and idiots forget themselves. However 
The ocean waters will take him 

soon, dead or alive. 






46 



Xll 



The Silent Shepherds 

What's the best life for a man? 

— Never to have been born, sings the choros, and the 
next best 

Is to die young. I saw the Sybil at Cumae 

Hung in her cage over the public street — 

What do you want, Sybil? I want to die. 

Apothanein Thelo. Apothanein Thelo. Apothanein 
Thelo ... 

You have got your wish. But I meant life, not death. 

What's the best life for a man? To ride in the wind. To 
ride horses and herd cattle 

In solitary places above the ocean on the beautiful moun- 
tain, and come home hungry in the evening 

And eat and sleep. He will live in the wild wind and 
quick rain, he will not ruin his eyes with reading, 

Nor think too much. 

However, we must have philosophers. 

I will have shepherds for my philosophers, 

Tall dreary men lying on the hills all night 

Watching the stars, let their dogs watch the sheep. And 
I'll have lunatics 

For my poets, strolling from farm to farm, wild liars dis- 
torting 

The county news into supernaturalism — 

For all men to such minds are devils or gods — and that 
increases 

Man's dignity, mans importance, necessary lies 

Best told by fools. 

I will have no lawyers nor constables 



41 






Each man guard his own goods: there will be man- 
slaughter, 

But no more wars, no more mass-sacrifice. Nor I'll have 
no doctors, 

Except old women gathering herbs on the mountain, 

Let each have her sack of opium to ease the death-pains. 

That would be a good world, free and out-doors. 
But the vast hungry spirit of the time 
Cries to his chosen that there is nothing good 
Except discovery, experiment and experience and dis- 
covery: To look truth in the eyes, 
To strip truth naked, let our dogs do our living for us 
But man discover. 

It is a fine ambition, 
But the wrong tools. Science and mathematics 
Run parallel to reality, they symbolize it, they squint at it, 
They never touch it: consider what an explosion 
Would rock the bones of men into little white fragments 

and unsky the world 
If any mind should for a moment touch truth. 



4 8 



Xlll 



Storm Dance of the Sea Gulls 

The storm blowing up, rain and dark weather and the 
roaring wind, 

And the gulls making their storm-dance — 

They fly low mostly, but now they have gone up into the 
sky, 

Whirling and dancing, the common sea gulls, 

Believe me, there is nothing there for your hungry beaks, 
no little fish, 

No floating corpses, it is all a waste desert of air, 

High in the air — 

Gray wings and white, floating over the storm, 

What are you doing? There is no food up there. — For 
pure beauty of the storm — 

They feel the beauty of things — as we do — they give 
their flying hearts to it — their wing-borne hun- 
gers-^ 



49 



XIV 



My Loved Subject 

Old age clawed me with his scaly clutch 

As if I had never been such. 

I cannot walk the mountains as I used to do 

But my subject is what it used to be: my love, my loved 
subject: 

Mountain and ocean, rock, water and beasts and trees 

Are the protagonists, the human people are only sym- 
bolic interpreters — 

So let them live or die. They may in fact 

Die rather quickly, if the great manners of death 
dreamed up 

In the laboratories work well. 



50 



XV 



He Is All 

There is no God but God; he is all that exists, 
And being alone does strangely. 

He is like an old Basque 
shepherd, 
Who was brought to California fifty years ago 
And has always been alone, he talks to himself, 
Solitude has got into his brain, 
Beautiful and terrible things come from his mind. 

God is a man of war, 
Whom can he strike but himself? God is a great poet: 
Whom can he praise but himself? 



51 



XVI 



Look, How Beautiful 

There is this infinite energy, the power of God forever 
working — toward what purpose? — toward none. 

This is God's will; he works, he grows and changes, he 
has no object. 

No more than a great sculptor who has found a ledge 
fine of marble, and lives beside it, and carves great 
images, 

And casts them down. That is God's will: to make great 
things and destroy them, and make great things 

And destroy them again. With war and plague and hor- 
ror, and the diseases of trees and the corruptions of 
stone 

He destroys all that stands. But look how beautiful — 

Look how beautiful are all the things that He does. His 
signature 

Is the beauty of things. 



V 



(^Autobiographical 



I. PATRONYMIC 

II. FIERCE MUSIC 

III. HARDER THAN GRANITE 

IV. CREMATION 

V. GRANDDAUGHTER 

VI. NIGHTPD3CE 

VII. VULTURE 

VIII. SALVAGE 
IX. BUT I AM GROWING OLD AND INDOLENT 

X. HAND 

XI. SEE THE HUMAN FIGURE 

XII. MY BURIAL PLACE 

XIH. GHOST 



Patronymic 

What ancestor of mine in wet Wales or wild Scotland 
Was named Godfrey? — from which by the Anglo-French 

erosion 
Geoffrey, Jeffry's son, Jeffries, Jeffers in Ireland — 
A totally undistinguished man; the whirlwinds of history 
Passed him and passed him by. They marked him no 

doubt, 
Hurt him or helped him, they rolled over his head 
And he I suppose fought back, but entirely unnoticed; 
Nothing of him remains. 

I should like to meet him, 
And sit beside him, drinking his muddy beer,, 
Talking about the Norman nobles and parish politics 
And the damned foreigners : I think his tales of woe 
Would be as queer as ours, and even farther 
From reality. His mind was as quick as ours 
But perhaps even more credulous. 

He was a Christian 
No doubt — I am not dreaming back into prehistory — 
And christened Godfrey, which means the peace of God. 
He never in his life found it, when he died it found him. 
He has been dead six or eight centuries, 
Mouldering in some forgotten British graveyard, nettles 

and rain-slime. 

Nettlebed: I remember a place in Oxfordshire, 
That prickly name, I have twisted and turned on a bed 
of nettles 



55 



All my life long: an apt name for life: nettlebed. 
Deep under it swim the dead, down the dark tides and 
bloodshot eras of time, bathed in God's peace. 



56 



II 



Fierce Music 

All night long the rush and trampling of water 

And hoarse withdrawals, the endless ocean throwing his 

skirmish-lines against granite, 
Come to my ears and stop there. I have heard them so 

long 
That I don't hear them — or have to listen before I hear 

them — How long? Forty years. 
But that fierce music has gone on for a thousand 
Millions of years. Oh well, we get our share. But weep 

that we lose so much 
Because mere use won't cover up the glory. 
We have our moments: but mostly we are too tired to 

hear and too dull to see. 



51 



. 



Ill 



Harder than Granite 

It is a pity the shock-waves 

Of the present population-explosion must push in here 

too. 
They will certainly within a century 
Eat up the old woods I planted and throw down my 

stonework: Only the little tower, 
Four-foot-thick-walled and useless may stand for a time. 
That and some verses. It is curious that flower-soft verse 
Is sometimes harder than granite, tougher than a steel 

cable, more alive than life. 



5^ 



IV 



Cremation 

It nearly cancels my fear of death, my dearest said, 

When I think of cremation. To rot in the earth 

Is a loathsome end, but to roar up in flame — besides, I 

am used to it, 
I have flamed with love or fury so often in my life, 
No wonder my body is tired, no wonder it is dying. 
We had great joy of my body. Scatter the ashes. 



59 



V 



Granddaughter 

And here's a portrait of my granddaughter Una 
When she was two years old : a remarkable painter, 
A perfect likeness; nothing tricky nor modernist, 
Nothing of the artist fudging his art into the picture, 
But simple and true. She stands in a glade of trees with 

a still inlet 
Of blue ocean behind her. Thus exactly she looked then, 
A forgotten flower in her hand, those great blue eyes 
Asking and wondering. 

Now she is five years old 

And found herself; she does not ask any more but com- 
mands, 
Sweet and fierce-tempered; that light red hair of hers 
Is the fuse for explosions. When she is eighteen 
111 not be here. I hope she will find her natural elements, 
Laughter and violence; and in her quiet times 
The beauty of things — the beauty of transhuman things, 
Without which we are all lost. I hope she will find 
Powerful protection and a man like a hawk to cover her. 



60 



VI 



Nightpiece 

If you keep command of yourself 

You can hear almost anything. But man must rest, 

A man must sleep: that is, abandon control: then all the 

sick demons 
Take him in charge. Who ever heard of a pleasant dream? 
Fear and remorse are monstrously exaggerated, 
And fear of responsibility: that is what drags us 
Out of our beds into the bitter black night 
To walk the floor and shudder and regain control, 
Else we should lie and scream. I seem to hear in the 

nights 
Many estimable people screaming like babies. 
I bite my lips and feel my way to the window, 
Where the moon rakes through cloud, the wind pants 

like a dog and the ocean 
Tears at his shore, gray claws of a great cat 
Slitting the granite. The elements thank God are well 

enough, 
It is only man must be always wakeful, steering through 

hell. 



61 



Vll 



Vulture 

I had walked since dawn and lay down to rest on a bare 

hillside 
Above the ocean. I saw through half-shut eyelids a vul- 
ture wheeling high up in heaven, 
And presently it passed again, but lower and nearer, its 

orbit narrowing, I understood then 
That I was under inspection. I lay death-still and heard 

the flight-feathers 
Whistle above me and make their circle and come nearer. 
I could see the naked red head between the great wings 
Bear downward staring. I said, "My dear bird, we are 

wasting time here. 
These old bones will still work; they are not for you." 

But how beautiful he looked, gliding down 
On those great sails; how beautiful he looked, veering 

away in the sea-light over the precipice. I tell you 

solemnly 
That I was sorry to have disappointed him. To be eaten 

by that beak and become part of him, to share those 

wings and those eyes — 
What a sublime end of one's body, what an enskyment; 

what a life after death. 



62 



Vlll 



Salvage 

It is true that half the glory is gone. 

Motors and modernist houses usurp the scene. 

There is no eagle soaring, nor a puma 

On the Carmel hill highroad, where thirty years ago 

We watched one pass. Yet by God's grace 

I have still a furlong of granite cliff, on which the Pa- 
cific 

Leans his wild weight; and the trees I planted 

When I was young, little green whips in hand, 

Have grown on despite of the biting sea-wind, 

And are accepted by nature, an angry-voiced tribe of 
night-herons' 

Nests on the boughs. One has to pay for it; 

The county taxes take all my income, and it seems ridic- 
ulous 

To hold three acres of shorelong woodland 

And the little low house that my own hands made, at the 
annual cost 

Of a shiny new car. Never mind, the trees and the stones 
are worth it. 

But it's darker now. I am old, and my wife has died, 

Whose eyes made life. As for me, I have to consider and 
take thought 

Before I can feel the beautiful secret 

In places and stars and stones. To her it came freely. 

I wish that all human creatures might feel it. 

That would make joy in the world, and make men per- 
haps a little nobler — as a handful of wildflowers, 

Is nobler than the human race. 



6 3 



IX 



But I Am Growing Old and Indolent 

I have been warned. It is more than thirty years since I 

wrote — 
Thinking of the narrative poems I made, which always 
Ended in blood and pain, though beautiful enough — my 

pain, my blood, 
They were my creatures — I understood, and wrote to 

myself: 
"Make sacrifices once a year to magic 
Horror away from the house" — for that hangs imminent 
Over all men and all houses — "This little house here 
You have built over the ocean with your own hands 
Beside the standing sea-boulders . . ." So I listened 
To my Demon warning me that evil would come 
If my work ceased, if I did not make sacrifice 
Of storied and imagined lives, Tamar and Cawdor 
And Thurso's wife — "imagined victims be our re- 
deemers" — 
At that time I was sure of my fates and felt 
My poems guarding the house, well-made watchdogs 
Ready to bite. 

But time sucks out the juice, 
A man grows old and indolent. 



64 



Hand 

Fallen in between the tendons and bones 

It looks like a dead hand. Poor hand a little longer 

Write, and see what comes forth from a dead hand. 



65 



XI 



See the Human Figure 

As the eye fails through age or disease 

And the world grows a little dark it begins to have hu- 
man figures in it. 

A stone on the mountain has a mans face, 

A storm-warped tree against the fog on the mountain is a 
man running, hopelessly, 

Fleeing his fear; and at night by candle light 

A huddle of bed-clothes on the bed is visibly a woman 
dying, that dearest 

Woman who has been dead for ten years. 

The eye's tricks are strange, the mind has to be quick 
and resolute or you'll believe in them 

And be gabbling with ghosts. For take note that 

They are always human: to see the human figure in all 
things is man's disease; 

To see the inhuman God is our health. 



66 



Xll 



My Burial Place 

I have told you in another poem, whether you've read it 
or not, 

About a beautiful place the hard-wounded 

Deer go to die in; their bones lie mixed in their little 
graveyard 

Under leaves by a flashing cliff-brook, and if 

They have ghosts they like it, the bones and mixed ant- 
lers are well content. 

Now comes for me the time to engage 

My burial place : put me in a beautiful place far off from 
men, 

No cemetery, no necropolis, 

And for God's sake no columbarium, nor yet no funeral. 

But if the human animal were precious 

As the quick deer or that hunter in the night the lonely 

puma 
I should be pleased to lie in one grave with 'em. 



6-1 



Xlll 



Ghost 

There is a jaggle of masonry here, on a small hill 
Above the gray-mouthed Pacific, cottages and a thick- 
walled tower, all made of rough sea-rock 
And Portland cement. I imagine, fifty years from now, 
A mist-gray figure moping about this place in mad moon- 
light, examining the mortar-joints, pawing the 
Parasite ivy: "Does the place stand? How did it take that 

last earthquake?" Then someone comes 
From the house-door, taking a poodle for his bedtime 

walk. The dog snarls and retreats; the man 
Stands rigid, saying "Who are you? What are you doing 
here?" "Nothing to hurt you," it answers, "I am just 
looking 
At the walls that I built. I see that you have played hell 
With the trees that I planted." "There has to be room 
for people," he answers. "My God," he says, "That 
still!" 



68 



APPENDIX 



Three Uncollected Toems 



I. ANIMULA 

II. THE SHEARS 

III. BIRDS AND FISHES 



Animula 

The immortality of the soul — 

God save us from it! To live for seventy years is a bur- 
den — 

To live eternally, poor little soul — 

Not the chief devil could inflict nor endure it. Fortu- 
nately 

We are not committed, there is no danger. 

Our consciousness passes into the worlds perhaps, but 
that 

Being infinite can endure eternity. 

— Words, theological words — eternal, infinite — we dream 
too much. 

But the beauty of God is high, clear and visible, 

Hauteclaire like Roland's sword, the cliffs, the ocean, the 
sunset cloud 

Blood-red and smoky amber, strong ochre 

And faint spring green: but presently come the stars, and 
we are too small. 

Man's world puffs up his mind, as a toad 

Puffs himself up; the billion light-years cause a serene 
and wholesome deflation. 



7' 



11 



The Shears 

A great dawn-color rose widening the petals around her 
gold eye 

Peers day and night in the window. She watches us 

Breakfasting, lighting lamps, reading, and the children 
playing, and the dogs by the fire, 

She watches earnestly, uncomprehending, 

As we stare into the world of trees and roses uncompre- 
hending, 

There is a great gulf fixed. But even while 

I gaze, and the rose at me, my little flower-greedy 
daughter-in-law 

Walks with shears, very blonde and housewifely 

Through the small garden, and suddenly the rose finds 
herself rootless in-doors. 

Now she is part of the life she watched. 

— So we: death comes and plucks us: we become part of 
the living earth 

And wind and water whom we so loved. We are they. 



12 



Ill 



Birds and Fishes 

Every October millions of little fish come along the shore, 

Coasting this granite edge of the continent 

On their lawful occasions: but what a festival for the sea- 
fowl. 

What a witches' sabbath of wings 

Hides the dark water. The heavy pelicans shout "Haw!" 
like Job's friend's warhorse 

And dive from the high air, the cormorants 

Slip their long black bodies under the water and hunt 
like wolves 

Through the green half-light. Screaming, the gulls 
watch, 

Wild with envy and malice, cursing and snatching. What 
hysterical greed! 

What a filling of pouches! the mob 

Hysteria is nearly human — these decent birds! — as if 
they were finding 

Gold in the street. It is better than gold, 

It can be eaten: and which one in all this fury of wild- 
fowl pities the fish? 

No one certainly. Justice and mercy 

Are human dreams, they do not concern the birds nor the 
fish nor eternal God. 

However — look again before you go. 

The wings and the wild hungers, the wave-worn skerries, 
the bright quick minnows 

Living in terror to die in torment — 

Man's fate and theirs — and the island rocks and immense 
ocean beyond, and Lobos 



13 



Darkening above the bay: they are beautiful? 
That is their quality: not mercy, not mind, not goodness, 
but the beauty of God. 



14 



L_ 




About the Author 



ROBINSON JEFFERS died last year at the age of seventy- 
five, ending one of the most controversial poetic careers of 
this century. The present book is his twenty-first book of 
verse, dating from Flagons and Apples (191 2), and his first 
since Hungerfield (1954). 

The son of a theology professor at Western Seminary in 
Pittsburgh, Jeffers was taught Greek, Latin, and Hebrew as 
a boy, and spent three years in Germany and Switzerland 
before entering the University of Western Pennsylvania 
(now Pittsburgh) at fifteen. His education continued on the 
West Coast after his parents moved there, and he graduated 
from Occidental College at eighteen. His interest in forestry, 
medicine, and general science led him to pursue his studies 
at the University of Southern California, and at the Uni- 
versity of Zurich. 

Jeffers received a small legacy from a distant cousin in 
Pittsburgh, married (191 3), and bought land in Carmel, 
California. He built Tor House there with rocks which he 
dragged from the beach, taking four years to complete the 
basic structure. All the while he was writing poetry, and 
his first major work, Tamar and Other Poems, was published 
in 1924, with Roan Stallion following in 1925. 

Among Jeffers' other major works are The Woman at 
Point Sur (1927); Cawdor (1928); Descent to the Dead 
(1931); Thurso's Landing (1932); Give Your Heart to the 
Hawks (1933); Solstice (1935); Such Counsels You Gave 
to Me (1937); Medea (1946) — the successful Broadway 
play; and The Double Axe (1948). 



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